IEEE takes advantage of its vast archive

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Like most publishers, IEEE, the Piscataway, N.J.-based electrical and electronic engineering association, grapples with the reality that magazines aren't the dominant b-to-b medium they used to be.

Jim Vick, staff director of IEEE Media, said the current ratio of print to electronic media revenues is about 80% to 20%. Over the next five years, he expects the split to be 50-50.

IEEE, with 365,000 members in 120 countries, now derives revenue from conferences, job sites and other nonadvertising streams. But one area where IEEE differs from most publishers is having an archive of content that readers are willing to pay for.

"You could go on our Web site and get lost for days," Vick said.

The association has archived articles on electrical engineering dating back decades. It currently has 1.1 million documents in an online repository called the IEEE/IEE Electronic Library, or IEL. It includes access to the association's journals, magazines and conferences produced since 1988, and it has some content from as far back as 1950. "It's a massive archive of engineering information," Vick said.

Engineers use the IEL to do patent searches, look for citations or check current standards. For access to this trove of content, corporations pay about $100,000 to $500,000 annually. "It's a significant, multimillion-dollar subscription product," Vick said.

Interestingly, selling access to the archive online may open another revenue stream for IEEE: advertising. The organization is currently looking into selling keywords and developing a pay-per-click model on the IEL to monetize the traffic, Vick said.

That would make the IEL an ideal publishing vehicle: one where the IEEE can sell the content and, in turn, sell the eyeballs to advertisers. -Sean Callahan

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